Archive of October 10, 2007

"The way of Christ is open for all, but it requires conversion," says Pope Benedict

Vatican City, Oct 10, 2007 (CNA) - During his Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father held up St. Hilary of Poitiers as someone who battled against the Arian heresy that Jesus is not divine. Through his teaching, Hilary shows us that “the path to Christ is open to everyone ... although it always requires individual conversion."

After a long journey towards the faith, by seeking truth, Hilary (born in 310) was baptized in 345 and elected bishop of Poitiers in 353.  His first work, Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, is the oldest surviving Latin commentary on that Gospel.

Hilary had many great qualities, among which the Holy Father noted: his “spirit of conciliation that seeks to understand those who have not already arrived and helps them, with great theological knowledge, to reach the full faith in the true divinity of Jesus Christ.”

Along with this, Hilary had another ‘great gift’: “to join strength in the faith and meekness in his relations with others.”

Hilary was exiled to Phrygia in Turkey in 356, by Arian bishops at the so called “synod of false apostles” by order of the emperor Constantius who had aligned himself with the decisions at the synod. Following the emperor's death in 361 Hilary returned to Poitiers where he remained until his own demise six years later.

In his most important work, "De Trinitate," St. Hilary "describes his personal journey to a knowledge of God and is concerned to show how Sacred Scripture clearly testifies to the divinity of the Son and His equality with the Father, not only in the New Testament but also in the Old where the mystery of Christ is already apparent," said the Pope.

The bishop of Poitiers "develops all his Trinitarian theology on the basis of the formula of Baptism which the Lord Himself gives us, in the name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

The Holy Father explained how St. Hilary presents "precise rules" for a correct reading of the Gospel when he indicates how "some pages of Scripture speak of Jesus as God, others underline His humanity, others still ... His pre-existence at the side of the Father ... His descent to death ... His resurrection."

"Firm in his opposition to radical Arians, Hilary showed a more conciliatory spirit towards to those who were prepared to confess that the Son was like to the Father in essence, always seeking to lead them to a complete faith: ... not just likeness but equality ... in divinity."

The beauty of Hilary’s words and of his consciousness of the seriousness and grace of his baptism lead him to pray: “Grant, O Lord, that I may remain faithful to what I have professed in the symbol of my regeneration, when I was baptized in the Father, in the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.  May I adore you, our Father, and together with you your Son; may I merit your Holy Spirit, which proceeds from you through your only Son…Amen(De Trinitate 12,57).  The Holy Father concluded his homily with these words.

The Holy Father concluded his audience with the recitation of the Our Father and with his Apostolic blessing.  During the audience, the Holy Father also wished a good end to the Tenth Plenary Session of the Conference on Dialogue between the Catholic and Orthodox Church.

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Pope Benedict receives #16 jersey from soccer team AC Ancona

Vatican City, Oct 10, 2007 (CNA) - At today’s General Audience, the soccer team AC Ancona, was received by Pope Benedict and presented him with a number 16 jersey.

The division three team was recently acquired by a sporting association run by Catholic Action, whose leaders are named directly by the Italian Bishops’ Conference. The team has been dubbed “the priest’s team” because it has adopted an ethical code regarding fair play and for doing works of charity . 

“It is a way of ‘moralizing’ soccer, to bring back a bit of ethics into a sector that has undergone a grave crisis of values”, explained Archbishop of Ancona, Edoardo Menichelli, in a recent interview.

The Vatican Secretary of State, Tarcisio Bertone, had been the one to initially mention the idea of a “Vatican team”, to play at the A level with other big name teams, such as Roma, Juventus, Milan, and Inter. However, the press secretary for the Vatican, Fr. Federico Lombardi made clear yesterday that AC Ancona is not a “Vatican team”. 

The players of AC Ancona presented their new jersey to the Holy Father at the audience, and met with him privately afterwards.

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Brazilian Church threatened for defending Indians' rights

, Oct 10, 2007 (CNA) - Two Brazilian bishops have informed the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need that the Church's stand in defense of native peoples' lands has provoked massive pressure and threats of violence from Brazilian landowners and timber barons. 

Archbishop Luiz Soares Vieira, the vice-president of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference, and Bishop Dimas Lara Barbosa, its general secretary, claimed that powerful developers are seeking to take land from native Indians and have attacked the Church for her opposition to these land grabs. 

These power brokers have abused the media to foment animosity against the Church and have threatened church personnel with murder.  One bishop cannot leave his house without bodyguards and wears a bulletproof vest while celebrating Mass.

The president of the Brazilian Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Geraldo Lyrio Rocha, also expressed concern about the nation's poverty.  Half of Brazil's population of 188 million lives below the poverty level.  The archbishop said that wealth was still concentrated in the hands of the few, while vast numbers of people live "in dire poverty." 

"When the people suffer, the Church suffers too," he said.

The bishops also reported other significant problems for the Brazilian church in the form of "psychological war" from anti-Catholic sects, a timid laity, and a severe shortage of priests.


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Argentinean bishops call for reconciliation in wake of life sentence for priest

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Oct 10, 2007 (CNA) - The executive committee of the Bishops’ Conference of Argentina issued a statement on Tuesday calling on Argentineans to reconciliation in the wake of the life sentence imposed on Father Christian Von Wernich, accused of having contributed to the violation of human rights during the military dictatorship.

Von Wernich, 69, was chaplain of the police force of Buenos Aires during the military dictatorship of 1976-1983 and was found guilty of “crimes against humanity” and sentenced to life in prison.

Upon news of the verdict, the bishops of Argentina immediately issued a statement saying the Church in Argentina “is shaken by the sorrow we feel over the participation by a priest in serious crimes, according to the sentence by the Federal Court.”

“We believe that the steps taken by the courts to clear these matters up should serve to renew the efforts of all citizens in the journey to reconciliation and are a call to back away from both impunity and hatred or anger,” the statement said.

The Argentinean bishops reiterated what they said in 2000: “If some member of the Church, no matter what their condition, recommended or was complicit in these acts (the violent repression), he or she was acting under their own responsibility, erring and seriously sinning against God, humanity and his or her conscience.”

Together with the bishops, the Church’s National Committee for Justice and Peace expressed its “sorrow and regret for those actions which directly, in collaboration or complicity, were carried out by members of the Catholic Church and which lead to kidnapping, torture and the disappearance of persons during the military dictatorship in the country.”

“We wish to express our solidarity with all of the victims of that period of our history, and we hope that the application of justice can act as reparation and comfort for the survivors, their families and those who disappeared.”

“May the challenge of building a nation, which excludes nobody, help us to find paths to reconciliation and coming together that make the building of a country of brothers and sisters in justice and peace possible,” the committee said in conclusion.

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US Bishops to consider revisions for regulating liturgical music

Washington D.C., Oct 10, 2007 (CNA) - A document regulating music at Mass will be presented for approval to the United States Council of Catholic Bishops at their Fall General Assembly in Baltimore.

Bishop Donald Trautman, outgoing chairman of the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy, wrote that the document “represents a significant rethinking of the structure and substance of what needs to be said about this important aspect of the liturgical renewal,”

The document, titled "Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship," expands upon the judgments to be applied in the use of music in the Liturgy.  The judgments focus upon the liturgical, pastoral, and musical appropriateness of musical works.  The document also explores the role of the composer, music in the celebration of sacraments, instrumentation, language and cultural issues, technology, copyrights and participation aids.

The document is a revision of a text first published in 1967 and revised for the first time in 1972. The newest revision includes a reflection on Redemptionis Sacramentum, a 2004 document from the Congregation for Divine Worship that concerns respect for the Holy Eucharist.  The revision introduces the concept of "progressive solemnity" as a guide to choosing proper music for the Mass.  It is a product of extensive consultation with musicians, composers and others involved in liturgy and music from throughout the United States.

The bishops' meeting will also consider approving new liturgical books and revisions of the translation of Sunday and Weekday Mass readings for Lent.

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Only three percent of Brazilians consider abortion “morally acceptable”

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Oct 10, 2007 (CNA) - A new poll by the firm Datafolha has revealed that only 3% of the Brazilian population considers abortion to be a “morally acceptable” act and an amazing 87% completely reject it.

Datafolha, which is owned by the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper—considered by pro-lifers to be the most pro-abortion daily in the country—carried out the new poll to outline the new “profile of the Brazilian family.”

One of the conclusions of the poll is that compared with 1998, Brazilians today are more tolerant of gay marriage than they are of abortion.  More than 2,000 participated in the survey.

While in 1998 77% considered it very troubling that a son or daughter carried on a homosexual relationship, today that number is around 57%.  Nevertheless, the “most significant variation” of the poll is linked to the question of abortion.

“Those who considered the practice of abortion as something very grave were 61% in 1998 and 71% in 2007,” the firm said.

Folha de Sao Paulo called the results of the poll were “frightening,” but it acknowledged that “today only 3% of the population considers it ‘morally acceptable’ that a person undergoes an abortion, as opposed to 87% who consider it to be morally wrong.”

Pro-life analysts noted that the newspaper attempted to soften the impact of the poll by interviewing numerous militant abortion supporters.

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Australian clergy's concern for labor laws spurs interfaith co-operation

Sydney, Australia, Oct 10, 2007 (CNA) - Australian clergy have come together to denounce the country's new labor laws, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Roman Catholic Bishop Kevin Manning of Parramatta recalled his 1950’s era job working in an unregulated grocery store in his attack on the Work Choices industrial laws.  "This bill is taking us right back to then. I think we have every right [to speak out] because the whole thing is immoral."

He continued:  "It's hitting people right where they're most vulnerable, people who are trying to raise families, buy a home, set up a decent standard of living."

The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen, expressed concern about the decline of unions:  "I can't see that it's good for the nation that working people fail to unite together in guarding their workplace conditions."

Support for labor has intensified the desire for interfaith co-operation.  Some prominent clergy of various Australian churches want to make their voices heard by the national government through organizing regular meetings between religious and political leaders.  The plan for interfaith meetings could include Jews, Muslims and other religions.

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Italian priest in adultery scandal barred from ministry

Rome, Italy, Oct 10, 2007 (CNA) - An Italian priest who started a controversy by publicly professing his love for one of his parishioners has been barred from administering the sacraments. 

Padua Bishop Antonio Mattiazzo issued a decree on Monday forbidding Father Sante Sguotti from hearing confessions in Monterosso, near the northern city of Padua.  The bishop also replaced him with another priest.

Father Sguotti is rumored to have had a child with his parishioner, who is reportedly separated from her husband.  The priest reportedly has the support of 800 of his parishioners.  Some have made T-shirts bearing approving messages and the new priest's Masses are reported to be poorly attended in protest.  Father Sguotti polled his parishioners in a "referendum" and claimed to have received the support of a vast majority.

Father Sguotti responded to the bishop's decision:  "I don't know yet what I'll do," the priest told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica. "As always, it's a decision that I will take with the help of my brothers and sisters of Monterosso."

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Bishop Tod Brown of Orange County could face prison time

Santa Ana, Calif., Oct 10, 2007 (CNA) - Yesterday afternoon witnessed the first time that a judge began criminal contempt-of-court proceedings against a U.S. Catholic bishop. The hearing against Bishop Tod Brown of the Diocese of Orange County could result in a sentence ranging from a verbal warning to jail time.

On Tuesday, Bishop Brown waived his arraignment for violating a court order, which is the equivalent of him entering a plea of not guilty.

The bishop caused Judge Gail Andler to open a contempt of court hearing by sending Monsignor John Urell out of the country to receive medical treatment, before he had finished completing his testimony in a sexual abuse lawsuit.

The attorneys of the plaintiff in the sexual abuse case asserted that Bishop Brown sent Msgr. Urell, who was responsible for handling diocesan sexual abuse allegations, to Canada for psychological treatment before he could conclude his deposition. 

The bishop stated that while he knew Msgr. Urell would be called back for further deposition, the treatment center in Canada, which focuses on care of the clergy, could admit Urell immediately.

Bishop Brown decided to send Urell because he broke down during a deposition with the plaintiff’s attorneys. 

"When Msgr. Urell was there for half a day, he couldn't take it because he was too upset about having to testify about hiding all these allegations," Venus Soltan, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys said in court. "This is plain and simply hiding the facts."

Callahan disagreed emphasizing there was not a court order in effect when Urell went to Canada, and that he also did not know anything about the current sexual abuse case in question.

Superior Court Judge Gail Andler listened to the opening statements in Bishop Brown’s contempt of court case before postponing the hearing until December 3 and ordering a subpoena on Urell until the same date.

Also being heard that day is a motion filed by Callahan to dismiss the contempt matter altogether.

"I was disappointed that the judge didn't rule. We were hoping that the bishop would have the opportunity to exonerate himself by telling the truth but he didn't get the opportunity," Callahan said.

John Manly, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said outside court that he was pleased the judge had allowed the contempt hearing to go forward and that he intends to call Urell in to complete his testimony on Dec. 3.

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Salvadoran archbishop hopes former congressman pays for crimes

San Salvador, El Salvador, Oct 10, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador said he was pleased with news of the capture in the US of former congressman Roberto Carlos Silva, who is accused of various crimes, saying, “It’s just that he pays everything he has to pay.”

The archbishop congratulated police on their efforts to catch Silva, and said he hoped the former congressman would “render an account for all of his actions” and “return everything from his fortune that was illegally obtained.”

Silva was captured last Friday in Anaheim, California, by FBI immigration agents.  He is wanted in El Salvador for illicit negotiations and bribing government officials into giving construction contracts to companies he owns.  He is also wanted in cases involving money laundering and drug trafficking.
Silva was staying in the United States with a woman with whom he was carrying on an extramarital affair.  His wife, Nora Emily Parada, is in prison in San Salvador under accusations of complicity in Silva’s crimes.

Archbishop Lacalle called the situation pitiful and warned that a person who “falls into the temptation to abuse his influences and political situation to take money from others is also capable of failing in conjugal fidelity and other things.  It’s a shame,” he said.

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Church rejects creation of bioethics committee on euthanasia

Madrid, Spain, Oct 10, 2007 (CNA) - The secretary general and spokesman of the Bishops’ Conference of Spain, Father Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, rejected a proposal by the Ministry of Health to create a Bioethics Committee on euthanasia.

“Euthanasia is one of the temptations of the contemporary totalitarian states,” Father Martinez said.  “The Church’s position is not extreme. The Church is against making the sick and the dying suffer, against treatment that prolongs suffering for the patient and the family.  That is unethical,” he told the Cope Radio network.
“But neither can death be hastened,” Father Martinez continued.  “It should not be absurdly slowed down nor accelerated.  To do so would be to introduce insecurity into the health care system since all human life is of equal value, even though it may be diminished in its physical characteristics,” he added.

The proposal to form a committee was confirmed last Thursday by the Minister of Health and Consumption, Bernat Soria.  The committee would handle cases of patients with untreatable illnesses or who resist treatment.

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Holy See calls for respect for human life “at every level and throughout the world” and UN General Assembly

, Oct 10, 2007 (CNA) - The Holy See’s Permanent Observer at the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, told delegates at the 62nd UN General Assembly that governments and nations should care for human life “at every level and in all corners of the world.”

After pointing out that nearly ten million children die each year from causes that could be prevented with adequate health care, the archbishop warned that, “The global community seems to have lost its compass for assuring the right to basic health care for all,” which needs to be a priority again in order to achieve the Millennium Goals and a better health care policy, he said.

He criticized the spending of large sums of money—“over a trillion dollars”—on military expenses and on the development of technology that “destroys lives on our planet.”  In order to prevent this situation from worsening, the archbishop continued, the United Nations, “in cooperation with all of its member states, must renew its commitment to the preservation of all life at every level and in all corners of the world.”

Archbishop Migliore noted that some countries are contributing to the achieving of the Millennium Goals while others are not, and he called for “reforms that promote peace and security as well as respect for the law,” so that “public and private investment” would grow.

“The United Nations is asked more and more to respond to different challenges throughout the world,” the archbishop pointed out.  “In order to meet the humanitarian needs, the United Nations should continue working to promote agreements with civil society that result in a predictable and proactive humanitarian reaction. The member states play a fundamental role with regards to humanitarian crises.  By giving them secure and unrestricted access to humanitarian workers, they not only fulfill their responsibility to protect, but also assure those suffering from tragedies that they will not be victimized,” he stated.

Archbishop Migliore also called for greater religious freedom and for peace by resolving conflicts through dialogue.  He also encouraged the UN to a deeper commitment to confronting the challenges of development, peace, security and human rights.

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Indian Catholics support Myanmar protests

Kolkata, India, Oct 10, 2007 (CNA) - Catholics in the northeast of India have held prayer vigils and demonstrations for the democratic protesters in neighboring Myanmar. 

At least three Buddhist monks have been killed in Myanmar protests against the ruling military junta.  Over 100,000 protesters have been involved, many of whom are pressing for democratic reform. 

Archbishop Dominic Lumon of Imphal condemned the military's violence against non-violent Buddhist monks.  He said the junta should "hold talks with the pro-democracy movement without preconditions."

In the Indian capital of Delhi the Archdiocese of Delhi held a candlelight gathering at Sacred Heart Cathedral.  Over 200 clergy, laity, vowed religious, and non-Catholics participated.

Other Christian churches voiced support for the protesters.  Reverend L. Kari Longchar, director of the Peace Affairs section of the Nagaland Baptist Church Council, wrote in a press release "We naturally think of our kith and kin who live in an extensive area of northwest Burma (Myanmar) that is scandalously neglected and brutally treated by Rangoon." Rangoon, the former capital of Myanmar, is also known as Yangon.

Towns on the Myanmar border have not reported any refugees, but residents are buying supplies in expectation that local markets will close.

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Drag “sisters” receive the Eucharist from archbishop

San Francisco, Calif., Oct 10, 2007 (CNA) - The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group of men mockingly dressed as religious sisters, received Holy Communion from the Archbishop of San Francisco last Sunday.

The “sisters”, dressed in costume and white facial paint, and with names such as “Sister Porn Again” and “Sister Roz Erection,” were given the Eucharist by Archbishop George Niederauer at the Most Holy Redeemer parish in San Francisco.

California Catholic Daily reports that the parish and its pastor, Father Stephen Meriwether, have been sympathetic to the predominately homosexual population of the Castro district in San Francisco where it is located.

Americans for Truth about Homosexuality adds that the parish has participated in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade and allowed the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence to lease a hall for “Revival Bingo”, giving the men in the group the opportunity to dress as sisters and award prizes such as sex toys and porn DVDs. 

Americans for Truth also reports that while many orthodox Catholic organizations detest the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence for their anti-Catholic and anti-Christian actions, they are also known as a charity group in the San Francisco area that raises money for causes such as AIDS. 

Parishoners were disappointed that the archbishop didn’t preach to the sisters, whose slogan is “Go forth and sin some more!”

The witness stated that the archbishop’s homily was very generic.  “He could have used the occasion to preach to them, but he didn’t.”

Allyson Smith, an analyst for Americans for Truth, noted, “San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer did not condemn the depravity of  Folsom Street Fair, which occurred in front of one of his own parishes or the blasphemous antics of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence there. Yet one week later, he gave Holy Communion, which Catholics believe is the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, to these same twisted ’sisters’ who were dressed in full drag costumes.”

For more information on the history of Most Holy Redeemer parish visit:

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Archbishop Cordes to meet with Patriarch Alexy II in Moscow

Vatican City, Oct 10, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum," will pay a visit to Patriarch Alexy II in Moscow on October 18. 

"The visit comes in the context of a series of meetings that the president of 'Cor Unum' will make in the Russian Federation between October 15 and 21, "according to the Vatican Press Office.

"From October 15 to 17 he will be at Novosibirsk, the capital of the region of Siberia where, accompanied by Bishop Joseph Werth, he will visit Caritas, the Franciscan school and the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. In this area the Catholic Church has distinguished itself in recent years for the increase of charitable initiatives throughout the territory.

"From October 18 to 21, Archbishop Cordes, as a guest of Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, will participate in the work of Caritas groups throughout the Russian Federation.

In Russia, this sector is at the basis of much fruitful collaboration with the Orthodox Church. The meeting is particularly significant because it is taking place a year and a half after the publication of Pope Benedict XVI's first Encyclical, which was dedicated to charity. The Holy See sees this as an opportunity to verify how 'Deus caritas est' has inspired charitable commitment in this vast country.

"The talks with bishops and volunteers of Russian Caritas on the influence of 'Deus caritas est,' the visit to Siberia and the meeting with Alexy II, make this trip an important stage of the mission of the Pontifical Council 'Cor Unum'."

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